CFF has Required Moves which increase in difficulty through
the three competition Levels. They are basic training skills
which lead you through the development of a trained, balanced,
supple canine athlete physically capable of many of the optional
moves of freestyle and with a brain attuned to learning. Most
of them stem from basic obedience which is the training foundation
on which most of us base our relationships with our dogs.
- Heeling: Have you ever seen a freestyle routine without
heeling? It’s not impossible but highly unlikely. What could be
more natural than moving side by side? That is how we express
companionship and relationship with other human beings as well
as our dogs, at work and at play. We are definitely expressing
our relationship with our dogs when we do freestyle. CFF requires
heeling. If you so choose you could fulfil that requirement
with 5 - 10 seconds of heeling and use all the rest of your
time with optional movements. CFF has broadened the definition
of heeling to allow more leeway forward and back in freestyle
movements such as laterals where the dogs’ legs may
interfere with the handlers depending on their size and conformation.
CFF requires heeling on both sides - right and left. This
is for versatility and physical balance and results in a better
conditioned dog than one that works only on a single side.
If we consider our dogs to be athletes we should strive for
balance in physical conditioning. This prepares them to better
handle the physical demands we make of them. Heeling on both
sides also allows more directional versatility in choreography.
- Frontwork: To approach and greet front to front is also a
natural expression of our relationships with other beings,
be they people or dogs. Face to face, eye to eye contact is
very powerful. We utilize these concepts in training a recall
with our dogs, that basic, potentially life saving exercise
which should be high on every dog owner’s priority list. You relate to your
dogs face to face every day in innumerable situations. CFF requires
frontwork. Could you never face your dog during a freestyle routine?
Again, it’s possible, but do you begin to see that these
requirements are based on the natural relationships we share
with our dogs all the time? In most cases you would fulfill
them with barely a thought as you choreograph. As a matter
of fact you would have to work very hard not to fulfill them.
The freestyle challenge is to be innovative and infuse creativity
into these technically defined relationships with our dogs.
- Changes of Pace: You could do an entire freestyle routine
at a single pace but there is a certain artistic monotony to
a single paced routine which will creatively benefit from even
a few moments of a contrasting pace. CFF requires changes of
- Backing and Lateral Work: Backing and Lateral Work represent
training not commonly (but sometimes) found in basic obedience
work. These relate to the development of our dogs as athletes.
These movements teach them coordination and an understanding
of the location and movement of their hindquarters. The increased
muscling and coordination enables our dogs to better and
more safely handle whatever unusual movements and athletic
endeavors we ask of them. CFF requires backing (starting at
Level II) and lateral work (starting at Level II) as a foundation
for the safety, health and well being of our dogs as we ask
them to participate in increasingly athletic endeavors.
- Turns and Pivots, Circles, Serpentines
or Spirals: Could
you to choreograph a routine which did not use some combination
of these movements? Do you begin to understand how natural
most of the CFF requirements are? Don’t get bogged down in the "I
have to." You will quickly realize that most of the CFF
requirements are part and parcel of your natural working relationship
with your dog. The others are there to help you develop your
dog’s athletic potential for the work you ask of him.
- Distance Work: Distance work (dog and handler separated by
a minimum of six feet) is added at Level III as a challenge
for more creative and versatile training.
All the requirements also serve as a framework for developing
choreography, both for the exhibitor and the audience. There
needs to be a common ground for understanding a performance both
creatively and technically. With total freedom creativity can
be hindered because there are too many choices and your audience
has no reference points or perspective on what you are trying
to achieve. The technical aspects of freestyle all represent
movement and we should be concerned with the artistry and presentation
of that movement, indeed these are inseparable aspects of freestyle.
As there are three Levels of competition in CFF and you may
enter any Level you wish, you are free to select according to
your dog’s training and your own motivations and goals.
Even at Level III if you wished to just get the requirements
out of the way you could probably do so in thirty seconds or
less, but you would find that you fulfilled many of those requirements
almost without thinking during the rest of your routine as well.
Under CFF rules some people choose to do a more classical style
of freestyle which is based primarily on heeling, as even at
Level III all the requirements except frontwork and distance
work can be done in heel position. CFF rules also allow for Optional
Movements and the requirements other than heeling itself can
be fulfilled in other positions relative to the handler. There
is a great deal of freedom for creativity and experimentation
under CFF rules.
And for those of you who truly wish to have no constraints on
your creativity CFF offers a Creative Interpretation class with
no required moves, which is a For Exhibition Only class. This
class also allows the new exhibitor to get their feet wet without
the pressure of being judged. What is seen in this class may
very well influence the further development of CFF Freestyle.